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Hall of Fame-bound Martin still going strong at GAC

Eddie Martin

Eddie Martin

When he officially enters the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday, Eddie Martin will do so around some impressive athletes, guys like George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner, and Ted Roof, a star linebacker at Georgia Tech.

Martin is well aware that, as an athlete, he's not in the same class as his fellow Hall of Famers. But his playing ability also was a very small factor in being picked for the honor.

The Central Gwinnett grad was a high school basketball star before playing small college basketball at Alabama Christian and Freed-Hardeman. From there, his impact on Gwinnett basketball really took off.

He has won five high school basketball state championships and more than 600 career games, all in Gwinnett County at Brookwood, Norcross and his current school, Greater Atlanta Christian.

"(The honor) is probably more for what I've been able to do from a coaching standpoint," Martin said. "I had a pretty good playing career but I didn't go to a big college or anything. It probably has a lot to do with everything that I've done, both coaching and playing, has been in Gwinnett County."

That's where his love of basketball started.

Martin grew up in Lawrenceville and was a star player at Central, averaging 27 points during his senior year in 1973-74. His 732 points was a county single-season record until Tony Akins broke it in 1997-98. Current NBA guard Lou Williams later topped that season mark, too.

Following college, Martin knew he wanted to coach basketball. And he wanted to live in Gwinnett.

"It just felt comfortable here," he said. "You could see in the '70s when I graduated that you were going to see the metro area start booming. And I knew this would be a great place to start a career and raise a family."

He coached one season at GAC, took a year off to work in private business and then coached a season at Lawrenceville Middle. In 1981, he became the first boys basketball coach at Brookwood. He stayed there until 2001 -- the court now bears his name -- and won 350 games while getting to coach both of his sons, Clint and Brent.

Brent was a senior on his final Bronco team, and Martin took a year of rest away from basketball after his younger son's career ended. He returned to lead Norcross to three straight Class AAAAA state titles from 2006-08, becoming the first program in Georgia's largest classification to win three straight since Lanier from 1938-40.

He also has won the past two AA state championships at GAC, giving him the state's ultimate prize five times, all in recent years.

"As a coach, that's always one of your goals," Martin said. "But you're never guaranteed to have an opportunity to do that. I waited until late in my career to even play for one. It's just rewarding to see different groups of players get to do that."

It's more than made up for the one major void in Martin's playing career.

"My biggest disappointment as a player is that I never got to play in the state tournament," Martin said. "We had good teams, but we never got there."

Central won the long-running Gwinnett County tournament titles his sophomore and senior seasons, but the team wasn't as fortunate in the playoffs.

Martin did his part with prolific scoring, including a 48-point game. He once made 20 field goals in a game. He also made 20 free throws in a game.

He was a shooter, though admittedly he lacked in other areas.

"I was probably pretty opposite of how I coach (as a player)," Martin said. "I consider myself a pretty good defensive coach. I don't know if others do, but I stress defense and I'm always riding the kids about defense. Not that offense isn't important, but defense can keep us in every game.

"But as a player, I'm not sure I could spell defense. I had the freedom to shoot and I loved that. ... The one thing that hasn't changed is my intensity level. I'm an intense coach and I was pretty intense as a player. I did everything I could to win."

Martin's still winning these days. He plans to coach GAC again next season, in what may be a rebuilding year without the graduated Malcolm Brogdon, a two-time Daily Post player of the year.

But never makes any guarantees beyond that.

"Each year at this point it's year by year," Martin said. "I'm not saying I'll coach five more years. I just take it year by year. But as long as I'm enjoying what I'm doing and my health holds up, I'll keep going."